Honda quarterly profit jumps on improved sales

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By YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Honda's January-March profit jumped 61 percent as the Japanese automaker sold more cars and motorcycles in a turnaround from a disaster-battered 2011. It forecast record global sales of 4.3 million vehicles for this fiscal year.

Honda Motor Co., which makes the Accord sedan, Fit subcompact and Asimo robot, reported net profit of 71.5 billion yen ($882.7 million) for the fiscal fourth quarter, up from 44.5 billion yen a year earlier.

The results underline a recovery at all Japanese automakers from the sales plunge that hit last year after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disrupted the supply of auto parts from northeastern Japan.

Tokyo-based Honda's quarterly sales improved 8.7 percent to 2.41 trillion yen ($29.7 billion), mainly because of rising sales in Japan and North America.

It achieved record sales of motorcycles for a quarter at 3.5 million units, up nearly 18 percent from the same quarter the previous year, with demand especially robust in Asia and South America.

Demand for its auto models was also strong, including the Odyssey minivan, the remodeled CR-V sport-utility vehicle as well as hybrid models.

For the fiscal year ended March 31, Honda's profit fell 60 percent to 211.4 billion yen due to the disruptions to production from the tsunami disaster in Japan and last year's flooding in Thailand where Honda has assembly lines.

The automaker has also been hurt by an unfavorable exchange rate. A strong yen erodes the overseas earnings of Japanese exporters such as Honda. The dollar been trading near 80 yen compared with 86 yen the previous year.

But Honda is confident of a rebound, forecasting record global vehicle sales and an annual net profit of 470 billion yen — more than double what it earned last fiscal year.

It sold 3.1 million vehicles worldwide for the fiscal year ended March 31.

The recovery tale is likely to be repeated at other Japanese automakers. Japan's No. 1 automaker Toyota Motor Corp. reports earnings May 9. Nissan Motor Co., the nation's No. 2 automaker, reports earnings May 11.

Not so upbeat were the results at Mazda Motor Corp., whose January-March profit slipped to 5.1 billion yen ($63 million) from 9.9 billion yen for the same period last year.

For the fiscal year ended March, Mazda saw its losses balloon from 60 billion yen to 107 billion yen ($1.3 billion) in red ink, as vehicle sales declined across all regions except for North America.

Mazda, based in the southwestern city of Hiroshima, plans a return to the black at 10 billion yen ($123 million) profit for the fiscal year through March 2013.

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